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Trail Journeys biking the Otago Rail Trail

The Otago Central Rail Trail

The Otago Central Rail Trail is a year-round recreational facility, designed for mountain bikers, walkers and horse riders (in parts). It is a public reserve and can be walked or ridden in either direction.

Modeled on Rails to Trails projects elsewhere in the world, the Rail Trail follows the former Otago Central Branch railway line from Middlemarch to Clyde. All the railway's original sleepers, rails and crushed rock ballast have been removed, and users now find a track similar to a gravel road. The difference is, on the Rail Trail, there are no motor vehicles or hills!

Who are we?

Trail Journeys operate from the start of the Rail Trail at Clyde in their recently refurbished premises.  The business now includes an "Information Centre" to give customers all the information needed and services required to have a successful experience on the Otago Central Railtrail. 

Trail Journeys offers Rail Trail merchandise, refreshments and a retail outlet for cycle clothing and accessories, kayaks and kayak accessories. Bookings for other activities in the Central Otago area can also be made through our new booking terminal. If you need accommodation, travel, guided trips or wine tour bookings in our area, Trail Journeys are happy to try and help with your requirements.

Guided Riding

The perfect hassle-free option for cycling the Otago Central Rail Trail. We organise everything for you - bike hire, accommodation and transport.

Cycle the Central Otago Rail Trail in style with our four day guided trip. We provide bike rental, transport, accommodation and guides as well showing you through some great local pubs and cafes. We'll also show you the historic towns of St Bathans and Naseby, take you curling, show you around a classic Maniototo station and check out the massive Macraes goldmine if you feel so inclined. 

Otago Central Rail Trail Guided Cycle Ride Tour
Our guided cycle/ride is a 5 day/ 4 night guided ride starting with us in Clyde. We will take you through the heart of Central Otago Rail Trail from Clyde to Middlemarch. There is an option to end your journey in Dunedin, in true style by taking the historic Taieri Gorge Railway to Dunedin.Other option is to take you to Queenstown.

This package includes all transport, support vehicle carrying all your luggage, experienced driver/guide offering full mechanical backup, accommodation, meals (as listed), snacks (home baking), and cycles/bikes. As a last resort if the weather is inclement or you're really tired you can retire gracefully to the bus to complete the days ride.
The Adventure
This cycle/biking adventure explores the historic gold mining remote picturesque landscape of the Central Otago. You will cycle on the rail trail where there are no vehicles and no real hills, making this safe and enjoyable for people of all ages and experience. This adventure is a “true” New Zealand experience. Each day you’ll be riding through heart of the Maniototo, the locals name for the area, past historic sites and quaint old towns. At night you may end up sharing a beer (and a “yarn”) with a local “Cockie” (or farmer).

History This guided cycle tour travels through the remote Central Otago area of the South Island of New Zealand. This is New Zealand's only multi-day cycle trail on an old historic railway line which is 150 km in length. The rail trail follows the former Otago Central Branch railway line from Clyde to Middlemarch. This line was constructed at the turn of the 20th century and completed in 1921, having taken 42 years to complete and providing a vital link to New Zealand's major goldfields in Central Otago.

Details Five Day Otago Central Rail Trail Guided Cycle Ride Tour

Supported Riding

Otago Rail Trail Supported Day Trips

Our fully supported day trips are the perfect solution for visitors wanting a cycling experience on the very best of the Otago Rail Trail, we provide bikes, instructions and transport. Options include starting from Queenstown, Clyde or Dunedin, the perfect day out.

Details Otago Rail Trail Supported Day Trips

Features of the Otago Central Railroad

The OCBR formerly began at Wingatui. The first 4 km of this line remains part of the national rail network and is operated by Toll Rail Ltd as the Taieri Branch to serve local industry. The present day Taieri Gorge Railway begins at the 4 km peg and almost immediately begins a climb to Salisbury (145 metres altitude) at the entrance of the Taieri Gorge passing through the 437 metre Salisbury Tunnel. The exit of the Taieri Gorge is reached at Pukerangi, 45 km from Wingatui, after passing through 10 tunnels (total length 1491 metres) and crossing 19 major bridges (total length 1020 metres). Shortly after Pukerangi the line reaches a summit at 254 metres altitude, the railway then runs across the Taieri Plains to its terminus at Middlemarch, 64 km from Wingatui, passing over a further two major bridges including the Sutton Stream road/rail bridge.

The Otago Central Rail Trail begins at a level crossing just north of Middlemarch. This trail has been developed as a walking / cycling / riding trail on the old formation and is a major tourist attraction in the area. The line from this point gently climbs to Hyde, shortly thereafter reaching the summit at 353 metres and continues through undulating country to reach the major township of Ranfurly. Thereafter a long climb to the highest point on the line, 4 km beyond Wedderburn, is commenced, this being where the line crosses the Rough Ridge mountain range at an altitude of 618 metres. In this section, the line makes 15 major river crossings and passes through one tunnel of 151 metres length.

The Original Railroad

The Otago Central Railtrail follows the former Otago Central Branch railway line from Middlemarch to Clyde. Construction of the railroad was started in 1891 and was finally completed in the early part of the 20th century. in those days it took travelers at least two days to make the journey between Dunedin and Central Otago, and even longer for freight.

The rail provided a vital link between New Zealand's largest city and the country's major goldfields. And, for 85 years, the railway brought a steady stream of commerce and activity to a number of towns and communities throughout Central Otago.

The Otago Central Branch Railway was one of the longest and most fascinating inland branch lines in New Zealand. When completed in 1921, 236 km of track had been constructed in 42 years, an average of only 5.6 km per year. Within that length were 97 bridges and 13 tunnels, also five major summits, the highest at 618 metres above sea level being 590 metres above the lowest point near the junction. The traverse of the Taieri Gorge in the first 45 km of the line alone required 19 bridges and 10 tunnels.

As the line never served any major settlements, its largest centres being the towns of Middlemarch, Ranfurly and Alexandra, its future fell into doubt in the middle years of the 20th century. As roads improved, cars became faster and restrictions on distances trucks were permitted to carry goods were lifted, the railway's use waned. However unlike some other branches the line got a late reprieve for a major construction project, in this case the Clyde hydro-electric dam, which began in the late 1970s. This saw the section from Clyde to Cromwell closed with a new terminus at Clyde geared around the requirements of the dam project.

From its inception in 1978, the Otago Excursion Train Trust (OETT), of Dunedin, ran regular excursions on the line, particularly in the Taieri Gorge, and the Blossom Festival trips to Alexandra became a regular annual feature. From 1987 the OETT began the operation of a daily passenger excursion to Pukerangi, the Taieri Gorge Limited, using its own newly constructed passenger cars with the regular OETT carriage stock.

It was announced that the line was to close from May 1990. Following the closure, the OETT and Dunedin City Council formed a joint venture, the Taieri Gorge Railway Ltd, to buy the track to Middlemarch. Track on the rest of the line was removed over the next couple of years and this section has become the Otago Central Rail Trail.


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